Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Microsoft Silverlight

I've been reading up a bit over the weekend on one of Microsoft's latest technology called Silverlight. When I first heard of it, I thought it was just Microsoft's response to Macromedia/Adobe's popular Flash technology, which has dominated the market for interactive web experiences. Silverlight claimed better audio and video playback quality (YouTube uses an older Flash version and quality is admittedly very poor). But after reading more about Silverlight, its beginning to sound a whole lot more than Flash.

To start with, Microsoft defines Silverlight as follows:

Microsoft Silverlight is a cross-browser, cross-platform plug-in for delivering the next generation of Microsoft .NET–based media experiences and rich interactive applications for the Web.
From that, it sounds like a description of Flash -- except Flash is already supported in Unix platforms whereas Silverlight will initially be available only in Windows and Mac, with Novell supposedly providing the Linux support in the future. But where the key difference lie seems to be in the programming side (not surprising for Microsoft). Whereas Flash requires you to write your code in its proprietary ActionScript language and embed it as part of the Flash file (the SWF), Silverlight uses a more industry-standard language/model in XAML (Extensible Application Markup Language) and works closely with standard technology like Javascript, AJAX and the like. And since its a Microsoft product, one can write code-behind scripts in Ruby, Perl, and of course, in any .NET language including C# and Visual Basic.

One of the showcase sites is a video of Bill Gates delivering the 2008 Microsoft keynote for the CES. The video is really funny and features a parody of Bill's Last Day of work at Microsoft (since he announced that he will step down already from active day-to-day duties). I never expected Bill Gates to ham it up along with excellent cameo appearances from popular figures like Barrack Obama, Hillary Clinton, Al Gore, George Clooney, Jon Stewart, U2's Bono and many others.

There is a Silverlight community website that also offers developers advance previews and info about Silverlight.

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